|HOPE Uganda seeks sponsors|
|Written by Darci Tomky|
Wera, Uganda is on the hearts and minds of two Holyoke couples, and they need sponsors to come alongside them to make an impact on orphans in this African village.
HOPE Uganda, founded in the last several months by Jeff and Tricia Michael and Mark and Sheryl Farnsworth, stands for Helping Other People Engage Uganda.
Their mission is to mobilize churches and citizens in response to God’s desire to come beside the orphaned children in Wera to experience the blessing of family and acquire the skills necessary for independent life.
Practically, this means setting up sponsorships to connect people in Holyoke to orphans in Wera.
“Our primary goal is to feed starving children and help these kids survive,” said Mark.
Sheryl Farnsworth and Tricia Michael met these two children in
HOPE Uganda is partnering with a Monument-based ministry called Children’s HopeChest. This group uses a community-to-community model.
The Michaels and Farnsworths hope Holyoke can become a “Connect Community” with Wera, leveraging the power of one community to make a long-term, transformational impact on Wera.
“We want to be the connect community,” said Mark, noting the vision was to do this ministry with northeast Colorado in partnership with this small village in Uganda.
Right now, community members have committed to sponsoring nearly 30 children in Wera. HOPE Uganda’s goal is to find sponsors for 75 total children by the end of the month, so it’s crucial to secure nearly 50 more sponsorships in the next few weeks.
They said if the sponsors cannot be found in Holyoke, HOPE Uganda will be broadened to other areas, weakening the community-to-community impact.
Monthly sponsorships provide food and discipleship teaching six days a week to orphans at a care point in Wera. It also pays for basic medical care and some clothing.
Sponsors also have the option to provide for their child’s school testing fees, which allows them to move to the next grade level.
A sponsor commits to three things HOPE Uganda calls Pray, Say and Pay. When a sponsor signs up, they will receive a packet with details about their child to help them pray for their needs. Through Children’s HopeChest, sponsors can write to their Wera child regularly. Finally, monthly funds will enable HOPE Uganda to hire in-country staff to meet the basic needs of the child.
Wera in need of help
Some have asked HOPE Uganda organizers, “Why do this in Africa? Why not help children in the United States?”
Uganda is home to 2.7 million orphans due to extreme poverty, AIDS and war.
“A whole age group has died,” said Mark, noting a staggering 49.9 percent of Uganda’s population is under the age of 15, a huge number compared to the 21.4 percent of the U.S. population under the age of 15.
With the older generation completely missing due to war and AIDS, the small village of Wera is distorted socially and economically.
Imagine if a tragedy in Holyoke wiped out almost everyone above 15 years old, commented Sheryl. Imagine the confusion if children were the only ones left to piece the community back together without much knowledge of how to survive and make a living.
Wera is a small, rural village and a farming/ranching community in the central-eastern region of Uganda.
It has been the recipient of cattle raids from neighboring towns as well as raids by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army). As a result, many children have been abducted and large portions of the population have been displaced into IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) Camps.
Of the orphans in Uganda, 1.2 million are orphans due to AIDS. Even if the mother is alive, the children are still considered orphans because the widow has no means to make a living.
Often times orphans live with extended family members, but when it comes meal time, if there is no food left, the orphan is the one that will go hungry.
While it is HOPE Uganda’s mission to feed these starving children, they also want to, with the help of sponsors, make an impact that will last for many years to come.
16-year-old Silver Ojur, pictured front center, worships at a church in Wera, Uganda. Through HOPE
The three stages in the process are survive, thrive and succeed.
In the survive stage, HOPE Uganda and Children’s HopeChest utilize native Ugandans to help at the Wera care point, feeding and disciplining the local orphans.
Since the older population is now gone, these children have no one to teach them simple tasks about farming, ranching and other daily jobs. The thrive stage focuses on teaching them these basic tasks.
“We want them to learn life skills to sustain themselves into adulthood,” said Jeff.
That concept flows into the succeed stage where sponsored children will learn jobs that will benefit their community and support a family in the future. Many of the orphans are teenagers, so it’s essential to teach them these skills now so they can start becoming a productive asset to Wera.
To sum it up, sponsors will be doing so much more than simply providing meals for the orphans.
Through the community-to-community model, trips will also be organized for sponsors and community members to visit Wera. They will use this time to identify needs in the village and implement projects to meet those needs.
For instance, the orphans walk as many as two miles to get water, so drilling a well close to their village would help meet the need to have clean water.
Holyoke also has the opportunity to go to Wera to teach and train them on basic farming practices and small business principles that will help them sustain their small village.
Organizers noted what a blessing it would be for the Holyoke community to be able to share their agriculture knowledge with Wera, a community not unlike Holyoke in its dependence on farming and ranching.
It is HOPE Uganda’s goal to engage, connect and transform lives. The organization acts as a coordinating council to bring people together who want to make a difference.
While it was formed by the Michaels and Farnsworths, the council will have up to nine members and elections will be held each year by the sponsors. They have set up guidelines and governance policies to work effectively in meeting the needs of the orphans.
For more information, visit HOPE Uganda’s blog at http://hopeuganda.blogspot.com or Children’s HopeChest’s website at www.hopechest.org. Mark and Sheryl Farnsworth can be reached at 854-2236 and Jeff and Tricia Michael at 854-2492.
Holyoke Enterprise June 9, 2011